How effective are you at boundary setting? If you feel like your ability to say no could use some fine-tuning, this is a great time of year to build your skills in this crucial area. As we near year’s end, there’s a heightened sense of urgency in many workplaces, with companies trying to reach annual goals before time runs out. For many of us, this means more on our plate if we let it land there.
The fact is that when your boundaries aren’t firm, people may try to take advantage of your apparent flexibility, both in your career and personal life. Your employer may not realize that you’re already at capacity if you don’t speak up when more work is proposed. Your family members may think you’ve got plenty of time to take on one more errand if they’re used to you picking up the slack when others get overwhelmed.
No one will set boundaries for you, so you have to take a stand about your own limits. It’s important to do so, because continuing to add more to your task list is not the road to success. More work is often the reward for worker bees, rather than a promotion.
Here are four ways to develop healthy boundaries and learn to set limits in your life:
Tune into your red flags.
Have you ever had a sinking feeling when someone proposes a project or opportunity to you? You know the one that sense that even if you might enjoy the task itself under other circumstances, the timing just isn’t right because you already have enough commitments. This intuition is a red flag that’s warning you to set your boundaries before they get set for you. With some practice, you can learn to identify this feeling and take action by saying no to suggestions that will push you over the top.
Notice when you feel guilty.
If someone is pressuring you to do something they want you to get done, this may bring up feelings of guilt and self-doubt. You might fear the other person’s anger or displeasure if you fail to take on their suggestion, or might feel that you don’t deserve to say no when someone else needs your help. Watch for these potential pitfalls to healthy boundary setting. Giving yourself permission to do what feels right to you and no more than that is a sign of healthy self-respect.
Knowing how to set proper boundaries is an important part of taking care of yourself. Self-care includes understanding that in order to help others effectively, you must first meet your own needs. This means recognizing your limits and honoring them, so that you can feel your best and deliver on current commitments. By taking on more than you can reasonably handle, your sense of well-being will diminish, and you’ll have less energy to give to others as well as yourself.
Get more assertive.
A key factor behind weak boundaries is lack of assertiveness. Some people worry that if they assert their needs by saying no to a request, others will perceive them negatively, as someone who is aggressive rather than helpful. But there is a difference between asserting yourself and being aggressive. You can respectfully decline a request to do more by explaining what your limits are at this particular time. While it takes some courage to master becoming more assertive, start small and build up to greater challenges. In the end, people will respect healthy boundary setting and will honor your limits more in the future.